Trailer Brakes: Trailer Braking Guide

Brakes add a whole new dimension to trailering, especially for those new to towing or those you have never experienced towing a braked trailer. As well as having the basic aspect of being able to slow down and stop without your fully loaded trailer shunting your tow vehicle into a dangerous situation, and being able to stop quickly in an emergency, having brakes fitted to your trailer allows you to safely tow heavier loads without having to upgrade your tow vehicle.

There are 2 types of braking methods – hydraulic and electric. Hydraulic brakes can be either disc or drum brakes and electric is solely drum brakes. The systems for how the brakes engage or are actuated can be hydraulic, electrically operated or use a combination of electricity and hydraulics depending on which braking method is required.

The guide below shows the combinations commonly used.

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Trailer Component Ratings

Trailer components need to function as a whole to make the trailer suitable to carry specific loads safely. From the design of the chassis and tongue, the spring and axle rating, the hubs, wheels and tires right through to the safety connections- all need to be matched to be rated equal or exceed the desired gross trailer loading. For example – it is folly to build a single axle trailer for 3500 lb GTW and fit 2000 lb rated hubs and spindles or springs – its “Murphys Law” that the weakest part of your trailer will fail at the most inconvenient moment (think rainy night with a fully loaded trailer on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere). Always check the manufacturers recommended ratings for each component you fit to your trailer. The under-designed, unrated or lowest rated component will always be the weakest link on your trailer - be wary of cheap or unbranded components..

Before fitting brakes to your existing trailer to increase its towing capacity, ensure that all the other components are up to the task.

Deciding which type of brakes comes down to a couple of factors.

• Size of the trailer and the maximum weight you need to carry

• Towing capacity of the tow vehicle and its hitch rating

• The size of your wallet